All to Be Workers
“And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Ephesians 4:11-13.
This scripture presents a large program of work that may be brought into our camp meetings. All these gifts are to be in exercise. Every faithful worker will minister for the perfecting of the saints.
Those who are in training for work in the cause in any line should improve every opportunity to work at the camp meetings. Wherever camp meetings are held, young men who have received an education in medical lines should feel it their duty to act a part. They should be encouraged not only to work in medical lines, but also to speak upon the points of present truth, giving the reason why we are Seventh-day Adventists. These young men, if given an opportunity to work with older ministers, will receive much help and blessing.
There is something for everyone to do. Every soul that believes the truth is to stand in his lot and place, saying: “Here am I; send me.” Isaiah 6:8. By engaging in work at the camp meeting, all may be learning how to work successfully in their home churches.
Properly conducted, the camp meeting is a school where pastors, elders, and deacons can learn to do more perfect work for the Master. It should be a school where the members of the church, old and young, are given opportunity to learn the way of the Lord more perfectly, a place where believers can receive an education that will help them to help others.
Parents who come to camp meeting should take special heed to the lessons given for their instruction. Then, in the home life, by precept and example, let them impart these lessons to their children. As they thus strive to save their children from the corrupting influences of the world, they will see an improvement in their families.
The best help that ministers can give the members of our churches is not sermonizing, but planning work for them. Give each one something to do for others. Help all to see that as receivers of the grace of Christ they are under obligation to work for Him. And let all be taught how to work. Especially should those who are newly come to the faith be educated to become laborers together with God. If set to work, the despondent will soon forget their despondency; the weak will become strong, the ignorant intelligent, and all will be prepared to present the truth as it is in Jesus. They will find an unfailing helper in Him who has promised to save all that come unto Him.
Prayer and Counsel
Those who labor at camp meetings should frequently engage together in prayer and counsel, that they may labor intelligently. At these meetings there are many things that demand attention. But the ministers should take time to meet together for prayer and counsel every day. You should know that all things are drawing in even lines, “that you are standing,” as the words were spoken to me, “shoulder to shoulder, marching right ahead, and not drawing off.” When the work is carried on in this way, there is unity of heart, and there will be harmony of action. This will be a wonderful means of bringing the blessing of God upon the people.
Before giving a discourse, ministers should take time to seek God for wisdom and power. In earlier times the ministers would often go away and pray together, and they would not cease until the Spirit of God responded to their prayers. Then they would return from the place of prayer with their faces lighted up; and when they spoke to the congregation, their words were with power. They reached the hearts of the people because the Spirit that gave them the blessing prepared hearts to receive their message. There is far more being done by the heavenly universe than we realize in preparing the way that souls may be converted. We are to work in harmony with the messengers of heaven. We want more of God; we are not to feel that our talking and sermonizing can do the work. Unless the people are reached through God, they will never be reached. We are to rely wholly upon God, pleading His promise: “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.” Zechariah 4:6.
When those to whom God has entrusted responsibilities as leaders fear and tremble before Him because of the responsibility of the work, when they feel their own unworthiness and seek the Lord in humility, when they purify themselves from all that is displeasing to Him, when they plead with Him until they know that they have forgiveness and peace, then God will manifest Himself through them. Then the work will go forward with power.
Fellow laborers, we must have Jesus, the precious Jesus, abiding in our own hearts much more fully if we are to meet with success in presenting Him to the people. We are in great need of the heavenly influence, God’s Holy Spirit, to give power and efficiency to our work. We need to open the heart to Christ. We need much firmer faith and more fervent devotion. We need to die to self, and in mind and heart to cherish an adoring love for our Saviour. When we will seek the Lord with all the heart we shall find Him, and our hearts will be all aglow with His love. Self will sink into insignificance, and Jesus will be all and in all to the soul.
Christ presents to us who are athirst the water of life, that we may drink freely; when we do this we have Christ within us as a well of water springing up into everlasting life. Then our words are full of moisture. We are prepared to water others.
We must draw nigh to God. We must be laborers together with Him, else weakness and mistakes will be seen in all we undertake. If it were left to us to manage the interests of the cause of God in our own way, we would not have reason to expect much; but if self is hid in Christ, all our work will be wrought in God. Let us have faith in God at every step. While we realize our own weakness, let us not be faithless, but believing.
If we will take God at His word, we shall see of His salvation. The gospel that we present to save perishing souls must be the very gospel that saves our own souls. We must receive the word of God. We must eat the word, live the word; it is the flesh and blood of the Son of God. We must eat His flesh and drink His blood–receive by faith His spiritual attributes.
We must receive light and blessing, that we may have something to impart. It is the privilege of every worker first to talk with God in the secret place of prayer and then to talk with the people as God’s mouthpiece. Men and women who commune with God, who have an abiding Christ, make the very atmosphere holy, because they are co-operating with holy angels. Such witness is needed for this time. We need the melting power of God, the power to draw with Christ.
Needs of the Church
Many come to camp meeting with hearts full of murmuring and complaining. Through the work of the Holy Spirit these must be led to see that their murmuring is an offense to God. They must be led to feel self-reproach because they have allowed the enemy to control their mind and judgment. Complaining must be turned to repentance, uncertainty and despondency to the earnest inquiry: “How shall I become true in faith?”
When man is a partaker of the divine nature, the love of Christ will be an abiding principle in the soul, and self and its peculiarities will not be exhibited. But it is sad to see those who should be vessels unto honor indulging in the gratification of the lower nature and walking in paths that conscience condemns. Men professing to be followers of Christ fall to a low level, always mourning over their shortcomings, but never overcoming and bruising Satan under their feet. Guilt and condemnation constantly burden the soul, and the cry of such might well be: “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Romans 7:24. Through indulgence in sin, self-respect is destroyed; and when that is gone, respect for others is lessened; we think that others are as unrighteous as we are ourselves.
At our yearly convocations these things should be set before the people, and they should be encouraged to find in Christ deliverance from the power of sin. He says: “When ye shall search for Me with all your heart, . . . I will be found of you.” Jeremiah 29:13, 14. The standard should be elevated, and the preaching should be of the most spiritual character, that the people may be led to see the reason of their weakness and unhappiness. Many are unhappy because they are unholy. Purity of heart, innocence of mind, only can be blessed of God. When sin is cherished, it can in the end produce nothing but unhappiness; and the sin which leads to the most unhappy results is pride of heart, the lack of Christlike sympathy and love.
How to Present the Message
Everywhere there are hearts crying out for the living God. Discourses unsatisfying to the hungry soul have been given in the churches. In these discourses there is not that divine manifestation which touches the mind and creates a glow in the soul. The hearers cannot say: “Did not our heart burn within us, while He talked with us by the way, and while He opened to us the Scriptures?” Luke 24:32. Much of the teaching given is powerless to awaken the transgressor or convict souls of sin. The people who come to hear the word need a plain, straightforward presentation of truth. Some who have once tasted of the word of God have dwelt long in an atmosphere where there is no God, and they long for the divine presence.
The very first and most important thing is to melt and subdue the soul by presenting our Lord Jesus Christ as the sin-pardoning Saviour. Never should a sermon be preached, or Bible instruction in any line be given, without pointing the hearers to the “Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” John 1:29. Every true doctrine makes Christ the center, every precept receives force from His words.
Keep before the people the cross of Calvary. Show what caused the death of Christ–the transgression of the law. Let not sin be cloaked or treated as a matter of little consequence. It is to be presented as guilt against the Son of God. Then point the people to Christ, telling them that immortality comes only through receiving Him as their personal Saviour.
Arouse the people to see how far they have departed from the Lord’s ordinances by adopting worldly policy and conforming to worldly principles. These have brought them into transgression of God’s law.
Many in the world set their affections on things that in themselves are not evil; but they become satisfied with these things, and do not seek the greater and higher good that Christ desires to give them. Now we must not rudely seek to deprive them of what they hold dear. Reveal to them the beauty and preciousness of truth. Lead them to behold Christ in His loveliness; then they will turn from everything that would draw their affections away from Him. This is the principle of the Saviour’s dealing with men; it is the principle that must be brought into the church.
Christ came into the world to “bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound.” Isaiah 61:1. The Sun of Righteousness shall “arise with healing in His wings.” Malachi 4:2. The world is full of men and women who are carrying a heavy burden of sorrow and suffering and sin. God sends His children to reveal to them Him who will take away the burden and give them rest. It is the mission of Christ’s servants to help, to bless, and to heal.
Christ’s favorite theme was the paternal character and abundant love of God. This knowledge of God was Christ’s own gift to men, and this gift He has committed to His people to be communicated by them to the world.
In presenting to the people the various lessons and warnings of the special message for this time, we must bear in mind that not all are equally appropriate for the congregations that assemble at our camp meetings. Even Jesus said to His disciples, who had been with Him for three years: “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.” John 16:12. We must endeavor to present the truth as the people are prepared to hear it and to appreciate its value. The Spirit of God is working upon the minds and hearts of men, and we are to work in harmony with it.
Of some truths the people already have a knowledge. There are some in which they are interested, of which they are ready to learn more. Show them the significance of these truths and their relation to others which they do not understand. Thus you will arouse a desire for greater light. This is “rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15.
Let the message for this time be presented, not in long, labored discourses, but in short talks, right to the point. Do not think when you have gone over a subject once that you can pass right on to other points, and the hearers will retain all that has been presented. There is danger of passing too rapidly from point to point. Give short lessons, in plain, simple language, and let them be often repeated.
Do not immediately follow one discourse with another, but let a period of rest intervene, that the truth may be fastened in the mind, and that opportunity for meditation and prayer may be given for both ministers and people. Thus there will be growth in religious knowledge and experience.
Keep the mind concentrated on a few vital points. Do not bring unimportant ideas into your discourses. God would not have you think that you are impressed by His Spirit when you fly from your subject, bringing in foreign matters that have no connection with your text. By wandering from straight lines, and bringing in that which calls the mind off the subject, you lose your bearing, and weaken all that you have previously said. Give your hearers pure wheat, thoroughly winnowed.
Be careful never to lose a sense of the presence of the divine Watcher. Remember that you are speaking, not only before an assembly of men, but before One whom you should ever recognize. Speak as if the whole heavenly universe were before you.
One night, previous to an important meeting, I seemed in my sleeping hours to be in meeting with my brethren, listening to One who spoke as having authority. He said: “Many souls will attend this meeting who are honestly ignorant of the truths that will be presented. They will listen and become interested, because Christ is drawing them; conscience tells them that what they hear is true, for it has the Bible for its foundation. The greatest care is needed in dealing with these souls.
“Let such portions of the message be dealt out to them as they may be able to grasp and appropriate. Though it should appear strange and startling, many will recognize with joy that new light is shed on the word of God; whereas if new truths were presented in so large a measure that they could not comprehend them, some would go away and never come again. Some, in their efforts to tell it to others, would misrepresent what they had heard. Some would so wrest the Scriptures as to confuse other minds.
“Those who will study the manner of Christ’s teaching, and educate themselves to follow His way, will attract and hold large numbers now, as Christ held the people in His day. At every meeting, Satan will be on the ground, that with his hellish shadow he may obtrude himself between man and God to intercept every ray of light that might shine on the soul. But when the truth in its practical character is urged upon the people because you love them, souls will be convicted, because the Holy Spirit of God will impress their hearts.
“Arm yourselves with humility; pray that angels of God may come close to your side to impress the mind; for it is not you that work the Holy Spirit, but the Holy Spirit must work you. It is the Holy Spirit that makes the truth impressive. Keep practical truth ever before the people.”
Do not make prominent those features of the message which are a condemnation of the customs and practices of the people, until they have an opportunity to know that we are believers in Christ, that we believe in His divinity and in His pre-existence. Let the testimony of the world’s Redeemer be dwelt upon. He says: “I Jesus have sent Mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches.” Revelation 22:16.
At the Queensland camp meeting in 1898, instruction was given me for our Bible workers. In the visions of the night, ministers and workers seemed to be in a meeting where Bible lessons were being given. We said, “We have the Great Teacher with us today,” and we listened with interest to His words. He said: There is a great work before you in this place. You will need to present truth in its simplicity. Bring the people to the waters of life. Speak to them the things which most concern their present and eternal good. Let not your study of the Scriptures be of a cheap or casual order. In all that you say, know that you have something which is worthy of the time you take to say it, and of the time of the hearers to hear. Speak of those things which are essential, those things which will instruct, bringing light with every word.
“Learn to meet the people where they are. Do not present subjects that will arouse controversy. Let not your instruction be of a character to perplex the mind. Do not cause the people to worry over things which you may understand but which they do not see, unless these are of vital consequence to the saving of the soul. Do not present the Scriptures in a way to exalt self and encourage vainglory in the one who opens the word.”
Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 6 pp. 49-58